I was born in 1994, after he went on death row. I went regularly with my family to visit him in prison, before I could speak and before I could comprehend what prisons and executions meant. As I got older, I started asking my mother tough questions about her brother.
She wanted me to have a relationship with Troy; after all, he was my uncle. But she also wanted to protect me from the harsh reality of his situation. She explained why he was on death row and how the government wanted to put him to sleep, the way they do with dogs that can’t be adopted. I asked, “But Troy didn’t kill anybody, so why do they want to kill him?” She had a hard time explaining why, because she had the same question.
2011 was a very hard year for my family. I lost my grandmother just after Troy’s final appeal was lost and before his last execution date was set. The death penalty takes a toll on everyone within its reach.
My mother [Martina Correia] suffered a lot in her battle to save Troy’s life, but she didn’t let it show. She was battling for her own life, too. Around a decade ago, she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and given six months to live. She asked God to let her live long enough to raise me and to clear my uncle’s name.
She made it another 10 years after that prayer. She did everything possible to proclaim the innocence of my uncle and stop his execution. And I was just about to finish high school when she passed.
People wonder why I didn’t crack after a year like that. There was nothing normal or easy about it, and my emotions have come at me at strange times like a ton of bricks. The best I can explain is that my mother raised me well, my family has stuck together and we have held firm in our faith in God.